I hear this question often when parents are trying to decide whether or not to allow their child to …
- have a Facebook page
- get a cell phone
- stay home alone
- etc, etc, etc
Some of these are dictated by law. Some states have laws dictating when a child is old enough to stay home alone. In our house, we don’t leave the kids home alone until the age of 12. And, then, it’s not a given. It’s on a case-by-case basis. Just because one child is mature enough at 12 to stay home alone doesn’t mean that all of my kids will be mature enough. Another consideration for us is the fact that we don’t have a land-line phone. We only have cell phones. Since we don’t have a land-line phone, I couldn’t leave Isaac home alone. He didn’t have a way to call me or call 911 if necessary.
Logan, now 17, got a cell phone when he was 14. We didn’t have an age in mind as to when we were going to let him have a phone. However, that summer we moved from KY to TX. We let him have a cell phone so he could keep in touch with his friends back home. Fast forward to last year, and Isaac did get a phone for his 12th birthday. At that time, he wanted to be able to stay home if I needed to run out for milk. He didn’t want to sit through Emma’s dance classes. But, as I mentioned above, I couldn’t leave him home alone with no phone. I also started dropping him off for his pottery classes. I wanted him to be able to use his phone to call me if I needed to pick him up early. Sure, he could have used his teacher’s phone, but he didn’t like that option. Fast forward into the future… What will we do with Emma? When will she get a phone? We don’t know. It may be sooner than that simply because she dances several hours a week. Eventually, I will get comfortable doing the drop-and-go thing with her. At that time, we may get her a phone we can pre-program with our numbers. We don’t want her to have a phone to call friends, and we definitely don’t want her texting any time soon. But, I can see the need for something like the Migo in the next few years. So, for us, there is no magic age that grants you the privilege of having a phone. Because I homeschool and my kids are with me most of the time, the ‘magic age’ is actually dictated by individual circumstance.
Facebook? Well, I’m not a huge fan of kids being on Facebook at all. I have nieces with Facebook pages, and I see the drama that comes with it. Logan, 17, has a FB page. Isaac constantly asks for one so he can connect with his cousins, but we’re not ready to go there with him. At 12, there is just no need for it. (Ok, really there’s not a need at 36, either, but I have one anyway!) Back to the kids, for now Isaac can connect with his cousins via text messaging (since they all have phones, too). We don’t have plans for him to have a FB page anytime soon. I don’t know when we’ll feel like it’s okay for him – or for Emma for that matter. It’s just too hard to monitor their actions on FB.
Once we decide our kids can have cell phones and/or Facebook pages, we discuss with them the value of their words. Once you send a text, it’s out there forever. Once you post something on FB, it’s on there forever. I’ve had to talk to Logan and ask him if something he posted was really something he would want his Grandma to read on his FB page. It’s so hard to be ‘real’ when you’re not face-to-face with someone. Kids (and adults) will say things via text or on Facebook that they wouldn’t say to someone’s face. It’s an important lesson to teach when we do give them the privilege of having phones or FB.
So, how do you decide when your children are old enough?